Victims of domestic violence in Jackson County now will have someone to help them navigate the criminal justice system, thanks to a two-year federal grant.
The county was awarded $160,000 for the 2013-15 biennium through the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grant Program. The grant will pay for a full-time advocate who will work alongside victims of domestic and sexual violence while their case goes from grand jury selection to verdict.
Diana Hamilton, director of the Victim's Assistance Program at the Jackson County District Attorney's Office, said the advocate can assist prosecutors in helping victims through an often complicated process.
"They (advocates) understand what's going to happen in the criminal justice process once the police and DA's office get involved in domestic violence cases," Hamilton said. "The process all crime victims go through is somewhat confusing."
Jackson County was one of 14 entities in Oregon to receive the funds, according to Oregon Department of Justice officials. Others include Josephine, Lane, Jefferson, Marion, Malheur and Umatilla counties. The Salem Police Department and Shelter from the Storm domestic violence nonprofit were also on the list of recipients.
"We're very honored to be chosen," Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the advocate will help in securing prosecution, as domestic violence victims are often frightened to the point of not saying anything against their attackers during a trial.
"It's very difficult to prosecute a domestic violence case without the victim," Hamilton said. "There's a big component that's about holding offenders accountable."
Locally, domestic violence rates have been on the rise for several years. Data from Medford police alone show reported cases of domestic violence in the city have jumped from 126 in 2008 to 379 in 2012. Lt. Mike Budreau said most of the reported incidents are alcohol- or drug-fueled.
"Usually the stresses are about financial (issues) in the home, as well as infidelity and stuff like that," Budreau said, adding that population growth in the area has little to do with the increase.
Victim's Assistance Program officials said the advocacy position would have been cut from the 2013-14 budget if not for the grant.
"It would have been very devastating to not get these funds," Hamilton said.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.